Additive manufacturing 3-D printing beyond plastic

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In June 2014, Nainesh Rathod, founder of Imaginestics, was part of a team that demonstrated the potential impact of what they are calling smart shape technology. The system Rathod and his collaborators developed lets a person take a picture of a part of a larger device with a mobile phone and then identify a local retailer where this part can be found or instantly print it at a local neighborhood 3-D printing service provider. Find out more in thisdiscovery.

Credit: National Science FoundationEnlarge imageWhile 3-D pens and printers are enjoyed by students, artists and makers, innovative American companies are using similar equipment to manufacture aerospace, automotive and medical technologies. The number of technologies customized and created using additive manufacturing processes is growing each year. But understanding how the processes work takes more than prying open your 3-D pen. Find out more in thisdiscovery.

Credit: NSF and NBC LearnCivil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI)The mission of the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation in NSFs Directorate for Engineering is to fund fundamental research and education in support of the foundations strategic goals directed at advances in the disciplines of civil, mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering, and materials design. In addition, the division has a focus on the reduction of risks and damage resulting from earthquakes and other natural and technological hazards.Inkjet-printed liquid metal could bring wearable tech, soft roboticsNew research shows how inkjet-printing technology can be used to mass-produce electronic circuits made of liquid-metal alloys for soft robots and flexible electronics. Elastic technologies could make possible a new class of pliable robots and stretchable garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.July 27, 2015Additive manufacturing: 3-D printing beyond plasticEngineers turn to copper, but must first overcome a major challenge

At Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT), Christopher Williams heads the effort to further advance 3-D printing–known among engineers as additive manufacturing–with copper, a widely used conductor in electronics. Williams is using a process called binder jetting in which an inkjet printer selectively jets glue into a bed of copper powder, layer-by-layer. The printed copper product is then taken to a furnace to fuse the particles together.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Williams is addressing a major challenge in the 3-D copper printing process, which is to eliminate the porosity that develops in the part during the process. These microscopic pockets of air weaken the finished product.

Williamss goal is to create an additive manufacturing process for copper that would be practical for widespread use. If successful, the results gleaned from this project can also be used to educate future engineers in designing systems with 3-D printing. Beyond the already functioning 3-D printing vending machine available to students at VT, researchers hope to integrate their findings into an undergraduate/graduate additive manufacturing course, as well as summer workshops for K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers. These proposed programs will not only instruct students through inquiry-based learning methods but also study how teacher/student perceptions of manufacturing evolve.

The research is this episode was supported by NSF award1254287, Additive Manufacture of Copper Cellular Materials, made through NSFs CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) program.

Miles OBrien, Science Nation Correspondent

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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